We’ve arrived at a sad hiatus in our tales from the school drop-off/pick-up carpool lanes.
I’ve written about him before—our beloved crossing guard at Jackson’s elementary school, the Godfather of School Intersections. Actually, my first post about Walt was largely satirical. He had reprimanded me, wielding his whistle like a whip. But I wrote it in the beginning of the year. I was hurt. I follow traffic laws. I go slow in school zones. I was just waving to a friend. I was going to turn. Sheesh.
Since my initial post, Walt has become the subject of adoration and fascination. On rainy days, he wears full body slickers, a neon raincoat, and an umbrella hat. Yes, an umbrella hat. And he makes it look downright sensible.
During the week before Christmas break, he wore a different head piece each day (antlers, Santa hats) and tiny holiday lights around his neck. Walt hung a small speaker from his chair and played Christmas music everyday. The music was a nice touch; it certainly added to the yuletide spirit. It was a small speaker too. And his chair sits close to some ornamental shrubberies. So you walk to the corner with your kid and hear a faint “Hark, the herald angels sing” and you think Are the bushes singing about the Lord’s birth?
And you feel like a 21st century Moses.
He planned that.
Then we found out that Walt paid the cafeteria debts for all the kids in arrears right before Christmas. I mean, where is Charles Dickens or whoever wrote Polar Express when you need them? We need a new children’s holiday book!
The children don’t stop for the traffic. The traffic stops for the children. The traffic definitely stops for the children when said children are being led a by a magical snowman who thinks it’s his birthday.
Then there was the time someone (someone!) called the district on Walt. His crime? Moving cars through the intersection efficiently. Getting kids to school on time. Making parents less stressed out.
Wow! Someone call the cops. This guy is making drop off easier.
How did Walt the Crossing Guard respond? With 400 traffic cones. If he can’t direct the traffic, he is gonna make sure parents don’t park where they will clog the intersection…or a solid quarter mile radius in every direction around the intersection. And I bet Walt has the cones in his garage. He’s been putting like fifteen around his VW bug everyday since August. (Or his scooter…the one with the foxtails hanging off of it)
Walt’s cone placement has got to be the most thorough placement of cones I have ever witnessed. We’re talking like one cone every two feet. He should rent out his services for Coachella. Millennials need a crap-ton of cones. It will remind them of youth soccer and then they will know where to go.
And now this. I can’t take it. I’m barely recovered from the sugar crash of Easter candy, the post-friends-departure melancholy, and the shame at the number on the scale after I ate all the aforementioned candy, and Walt is nowhere to be found.
The kindergarten teacher has been there all week, waving a flag with the gusto of the World Cup lineman. But does the wave mean “Stop”? Does it mean “Go”? I think it means “Pay attention! There are children in the crosswalk!” While I like this teacher (and she looked fierce in her cold shoulder tunic the other day), she is not Walt. Furthermore, teachers should not have to do extras like direct traffic. It’s downright magnanimous of this teacher to volunteer to be crossing guard. Who would ever want to deal with beastly people like me anymore than they actually have to? And at 7:30am! I can’t even stomach myself at that hour.
Anyway, we come to find out the sad news. Sorry in advance but the levity of the post is about to take a left turn. Walt is taking time for himself. He’s had deaths in his family. I won’t go into detail but suffice to say, no one should suffer that much loss. My heart absolutely breaks for him. We all miss him already.
I was really down the other day because Walt isn’t there anymore. I had to ask why. I myself only exchanged niceties with him. Perhaps that for those thirty feet in the crosswalk, our children are safe if he is there? Is it because I see him twice a day? Or maybe it’s the weird cocktail of sympathy plus relief (the glad-it’s-not-me kind) that accompanies tragic news. That combo can make you feel pretty shitty.
Or maybe it’s Walt’s authenticity that we will all miss. A person who is so unabashedly himself, like Walt is, refreshes us in a world of Instagram filters, Facebook updates, and Pinterest boards.
Walt is a character. He is who he is. Take or leave it. (Let’s see how many more clichés I can fit in here.) Walt is like that little elf in Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer who wants to be a dentist. I mean, I wish I had the stones to put fifty cones around the perimeter of my cul de sac and wear an umbrella hat and blow my whistle at cars when they drive into the cul de sac to turn around.
I think I’m going to try and be more like Walt. Not the cones in the cul de sac. Just the whole authentic thing. I mean, people would think I was nuts if I directed traffic in a cul de sac.
So until the return of the Walt, I’m going to keep him in my prayers.